Q: I find this line in one of your recent posts: “The political response to Coronavius has returned us to pre-Magna Carta days. Quite suddenly, the three branches of government, once constitutionally separated, have collapsed and been subsumed by chief executives unchallenged by legislatures or quiescent courts.” Would you care to expand on that?
A: I’m not sure any expansion of the idea it would matter a bit. The posts found in Connecticut Commentary are columns still sent to a number of Connecticut papers. The columns are not being picked up any longer. Nor, I should point out, are columns written by Chris Powell, a thorn in the side of the state’s unitary media. Elsewhere I’ve said that modern journalism is ten percent thought and ninety percent repetition. Powell is a ten percenter; something in the man does not love nonsense. But, as you might imagine, his ten percent is not often repeated in the state’s media echo chamber. The Register Citizen papers used to run both our columns, but that line of papers was bought out by Hearst media, which is a little more Pecksniffian in maters bearing on progressive notions. Connecticut Commentary, which stretches back to 2004, is read by about 14,000 people per month. But really, we are surrounded – have you noticed? – by the state’s progressive media.
The Magna Carta, the Great Charter of England, was one of the turning points in European republican – small “r” – government. It marks a point, at least in democratic lore, when parliaments began to wrest power from the monarchy. Of course the provisions of the Magna Carta, which included the right to a trial by jury of peers, applied only to the lords of England, but even so the wresting of power from an absolute monarchy has been viewed by some lovers of liberty as “one giant step for mankind.” The point I am making in the post is that the political responses to Coronavirus has collapsed the doctrine of the separations of powers, but I’m not sure that anyone in politics or the media is any longer concerned with republican – small “r” – government.
Q: “Political responses to Cronavirus?”
A: Yes. I insist on that formulation. It is not Coronavius -- whatever you may have read or heard—that has CAUSED the only intentional, politically generated recession in US history. This recession has been caused by a political response to a virus -- and, some would argue, the fluttering “never-Trump” wings of the Democrat and Republican parties -- not the virus itself. Viruses have come and gone, and politicians have not seen fit in the past to shutter businesses or proscribe constitutional liberties.
Q: But people argue that such steps were necessary in the absence of a vaccine?
A: So I’ve heard. Given Connecticut’s shrunken economy and a general disposition to avoid spending cuts, the free market cannot survive until Big-Med and obliging politicians produce a vaccine that passes scrutiny from the administrative state and its immodest politicians. My response to this sort of crooked thinking is simplicity itself: Medical people should make medical decisions, politicians should make political decisions and, most importantly, both should be held responsible for the decisions they make. Traditional political decisions, in Connecticut and elsewhere, become less likely when legislatures are shuttered and business decisions are made by governors and presidents rather than legislative representatives, restaurateurs and salon owners. The last post/column to which you refer is not chuckle-proof. It’s full of barn-burning ironies and stinging satire for those still able to read between the lines.
Q: What do you think of Ned Lamont so far as governor? His approval rating on the Coronavirus issue appears to be good.
A: In an earlier post/column I said Lamont would be Malloy II, a reference to former Governor Dannel Malloy, now the Chancellor of the University of Maine college system. Malloy’s disapproval rating when he left office was 71 percent. Having a bristly character, he was famous for cutting the Republican opposition party out of the backroom budget deliberations he held frequently with fellow Democrat leaders in the General Assembly and union honchoes, Connecticut’s fourth branch of government. Coronavirus has allowed Lamont to take a lap on Malloy. Ordinary business in the General Assembly has been suspended, and of course Connecticut courts, rarely inclined to buck powerful politicians, have been shaped by nearly half a century of Democrat Party rule. Lamont is Invictus, the master of his fate, the captain of his soul, the Capo dei capi of Connecticut governors. He has in his gubernatorial tool box many more powers than his predecessor.
Q: And yet you think Lamont is something of a duffer, indecisive you say.
A: Not indecisive, multi-minded. Too many people – and more importantly, some wrong people – have his ear. There is a growing sense among political watchers that Lamont is playing by the numbers at a time when the numbers no longer compute. But governors in Connecticut politics have always been less important that the correlation of forces within the state, including political, business and union interests, powerful Democrat leaders in the General Assembly, and politically influential progressive voices in the state’s media.
Q: What permanent changes to you expect in the post-Coronavirus years.
A: Oh, I don’t know really. No one does. The only constant in the modern world is change – rapid change. Connecticut businesses may try to recover some costs is a collapsing economy by economizing – reducing their work force and plant sizes by continuing to allow some employees to do business from home. That might, incidentally, reduce traffic and spare Connecticut further debates on tolls. Here in Connecticut, “the land of steady habits,” change may not be as disruptive as in some other states. There is no tyranny like he tyranny of habits, and some habits are more beneficial than others. Connecticut in its glory days used to be somewhat reclusive, modest in its politics, prudent, and suspicious of tin-pot political saviors. All that has been swept away.